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Seeing the stories about the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia reminded me of an anniversary in my own life. Ten years ago was the first weekend I really went out and opened up my life to be a part of the bear community, the gay community. A big player in this was Live Journal.

While I was out to my sister, and to my fraternity brothers and sisters, I really hadn't made that next step. I knew a few people from college who were gay, but I never really sought them out to help me find my way. I was still deathly afraid of gay bars. I was working in one of my best jobs and was living alone in Houston, still trying to hold on to my college life as my friends were getting married, having children and moving on.

I found Live Journal through a now defunct porn web site in 2002. It was a site that a guy just put up pics of good-looking guys, bears and jocks. Something that would have been easily done on Tumblr now actually took work then. The site owner had a link to his LJ on the site. He's been long gone from LJ now.

I had known about about Bears for a while thanks to many copies of Bear Magazine (back in the non- photoshopped, black and white days). Confession, I still have many issues hidden away in a porn suitcase. I really don't use it anymore, thanks to the internet. It must be so much easier for young men today being able to ramble through Tumblr rather than an embarrassing adult bookstore.

So I joined LJ back in 2002 and started finding people - most of them outside Houston. It was interesting seeing people actually talking about their out lives, talking about guys, their relationships or dating, getting to understand what the real world for these men was like.

I was getting ready to take a new step in my life.

Towards the end of January I decided i would head over to watch a rugby game in Houston. Houston had a gay team at the time, the Roughnecks, and they were going to play the Dallas Diablos. Before I got to do that, [livejournal.com profile] lostncove asked if I wanted to come up to Austin for the weekend to meet him, [livejournal.com profile] mattycub and their friend [livejournal.com profile] cristalskye. I decided to accept. (I'm out of practice on the tags!)

When I woke up on Saturday, February 1st, 2003 I watched the news about the Columbia which had broken up over East Texas, near where my family lived when I was in elementary school. This became a point of discussion when I met the three at the Magnolia Cafe in Austin.

So there I was meeting my first real-live LJ'ers. More than that was meeting the first two gay men outside of the people I knew from school. They were gracious, freindly, and not scary. I came out late due to my own fears, fears of being a large guy in a world that feels gays are twinks. Late due to Texas attitudes and small mindedness. Late due to being scared of AIDS which had changed in the 90's from a death sentence to something that could be lived with.

I stayed overnight seeing a production of Randy's play, Said and Meant. Matt and Randy showed me some of Austin's quirkiness before I drove back home. While I don't talk to Matt or Randy much anymore, (and am bad with getting together with the much more local Skye) that weekend left a powerful impact on my life. A connection I don't think I would have had if it wasn't for early social media.

I brought up the rugby game because another new LJ friend, Chris, decided to come to that game to meet me, and I wasn't there. It would be a few days more before my first meeting with the man who would become my husband.

I did love the year of 2003. I started changing my life, meeting more LJ'ers at my first TBRU and off to Chicago where I enjoyed a baseball game, but also meeting more folks. That time in my life was exciting and I'm glad I finally jumped in to the pool.

Ten years later I'm much more settled. The gay thing is now not a point of discovery. Where I was bold then, I lament that I'm probably not as open now, not as open to new people or new adventures. I need to find out how to find that again.

One last difference between this weekend and that one ten years ago? The Superbowl. Back then they didn't have an off week and then have the game. Also, the Dallas Cowboys are nowhere near this one, and that's a good thing.
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